Less is more. Right?
Then why does it always feel like… well, more is more?
We live in a culture that loudly, but also implicitly applauds busy, full, stretched-out and overflowing. It’s our badge of honor. But if it’s really all that it’s made out to be why are so many of us worn out, tired, anxious and empty?
I learnt this lesson quite viscerally this past spring when my one year old (and in my opinion flourishing) lemon trees just wasn’t doing what it was put in my garden to do - produce fruit.
It looked to me like it was thriving. Big, bushy and vibrant - but no new growth - exactly the same size it was a year ago… also no lemons. If you hadn’t met it a year ago you would never have guessed something wasn’t right. It looked like it was plenty busy maintaining those beautiful green limbs and perfect leaves… but still - no new spring growth, and no fruit.
At the same time, I was learning that my peach tree’s harvest, while plentiful (like crazy-plentiful) was still unhealthy - the peaches were about one third of the size that they should have been, and the reason: we had not taken the time to examine her blossom-load earlier in the spring and prune about two thirds of them right off.
Back to the Meyer Lemon.
When we figured out it was our reluctance to prune back the blossoms that had caused our peach harvest to suffer, I sat in front of the Meyer wondering if perhaps all if the maintenance of those limbs were to blame for her stunted growth. “What the heck...” I thought, “it’s not like it’s growing anyways…”
And so I pruned off nearly two thirds of the tree.
Then it rained.
And then she exploded (in the best way).
New buds, shoots and best of all - blossoms just BLEW UP all over what was left of the Meyer Lemon. Turns out the poor plant was spending all of its resources maintaining activity from the growing seasons of the past. All good I am sure, but in THIS season, old growth was hindering its ability to grow upward, reaching its size potential and bear lemons… what it was made to do.
Friends, someone else may be standing at the peach/lemon/orange/cherry tree of your life marveling at how beautiful and prolific your blossoms look, or how well you’ve maintained that old spurt of growth from 3 years ago, but on the inside you’re feeling stuck, suffocated, barren and half-living. Alive… but just not in a way that honors who you were made to be, and are meant to becoming.
Maybe it’s time to get out those pruning shears?
Hang on to the parts of your life that embody your deepest held values.
Each of us should take the time to narrow down what matters most to us in terms of values to no more than two or three (yelp). Having your values as the measuring tool (vs. the values, priorities and demands of others) you use to choose how to spend your time, money and energy, and assess how you are currently spending your time, money and energy is probably one of the most valuable and transformational disciplines you can nurture.
Pay attention to resentment.
All emotions (yes, even the hard and uncomfortable ones) offer valuable insights into both how you are wired, and what is happening in your life right now. If your life is a car, your emotions are the warning lights on your dashboard. They tell you a lot about what’s happening under the hood.
Resentment is often an invitation to examine your boundaries, particularly ones that are being transgressed (by yourself or others). Sometimes we are invited to examine and perhaps correct the assumptions and experiences that have caused us to erect the often subconscious boundaries we have, other times we are invited to honor and protect them. Either way, you can’t learn or change anything by ignoring that resentment light when it starts blinking.
Pay attention to parts of your life that set your soul on fire.
Hopefully there are moments in your day, week or month that leave you feeling a satisfaction so deep and peaceful that maybe just maybe it’s as though God himself is just beaming at you the way a gardener does when her lemon tree finally begins to flourish.
I don’t believe these moments of deep satisfaction are co-incidental. Stay close to moments that feel like warmth, peace and exploding joy - don’t cut them down… these are the parts of you that may by waiting for the room & resources to flourish.
How about you, friend?
Which areas of your life are suffocating new growth?
How do you know when it’s time to break out the pruning shears?